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Can I change my mind about buying a used car after I’ve signed the contract?

Question
Can I change my mind about buying a used car after I’ve signed the contract?

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Reviewed: 
December, 2016
Answer

In most cases, no.

There is no cooling off period when you buy a used car from a dealer. This means you usually cannot change your mind after you buy a used car. It is better to inspect the car carefully before signing a contract instead of trying to cancel a contract after it is signed.

There are a few situations when you can cancel the contract. For example, a contract can be cancelled within 90 days of when you receive the car if the dealer did not tell you the total mileage on the car or that the car was used as a daily rental car, police cruiser, taxi or emergency vehicle.

If the dealer made false or misleading statements about the car, you can cancel the contract within one year of when you signed the contract. Making false, misleading or deceptive statements in order to sell a car is known as an unfair practice.

Sometimes the dealer may agree to cancel the contract if you ask them to before you take possession of the car. If they do, they may refund all or only part of your deposit. A dealer may decide to use part of your deposit to pay for their expenses. Some examples of these expenses are:

  • advertising
  • administrative costs
  • lost profits

Figure out if you can cancel your contract within 90 days

A contract can be cancelled within 90 days of when you receive the car if the dealer did not tell you:

  • the total mileage on the car
  • the make, model or year of the car
  • that the car was used as a daily rental car, police cruiser, taxi or emergency vehicle
  • that the car was ever declared or branded a total loss by an insurer
  • that it was considered un-repairable or suitable for salvage, or
  • that the car was rebuilt

Within one year

You can cancel the contract within one year of when you signed it if the dealer made false or misleading statements about the car. Making false, misleading or deceptive statements in order to sell a car is known as an unfair practice.

For example, a dealer must not tell you that:

  • the car is of better quality than it really is
  • the car is only available for a limited time, if that is not true
  • you are getting a special price or benefit, if it is not true

Unfair practices also happen when a dealer:

  • takes advantage of language difficulties that you may have
  • takes advantage of physical, mental, or emotional disabilities that you may have
  • charges far more than what is reasonable for the car
  • pressures you to buy a car that the dealer knows you cannot afford

If the dealer used an unfair practice to get you to buy the car, and you are within 1 year of when you signed the agreement, you can cancel it.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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Tell the dealer you want to cancel the contract

If you believe you have a right to cancel the contract, tell the dealer with a letter that you want to cancel it.

You can use a sample cancellation letter or write your own. Send your letter by registered mail so you can make sure that the dealer got it.

Your letter should include the following information:

  • your name and address
  • the date
  • the name of the dealer’s company and their address
  • the date you purchased the car
  • the make, model, year, and vehicle identification number of the car
  • how much you paid for the car
  • a detailed description of why you think you can cancel the contract
  • the date by which you want a response from them (5-7 days is reasonable)

Be sure to include the following things with your letter:

  • evidence, like copies, not originals, of receipts, invoices, contracts, or other relevant documents, and
  • your signature and the date.

Keep a copy of your letter and your registered mail receipt so that you have proof that the dealer got your letter.

Keep your letter clear, short, and specific.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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Complain to the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC)

Before you complain to the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC), you must first send a letter to the dealer through registered mail. If you are not happy with the dealer’s response to your letter, you can file a complaint with OMVIC.

There are 3 ways to do this:

After you file your complaint, you will need to fill out a Complaints Process Acknowledgement Form. This allows OMVIC to contact the dealer directly.

OMVIC cannot tell a dealer to cancel a contract, return money, or do repairs. Instead, OMVIC works with you and the dealer to find a solution to the problem. If you and the dealer cannot come to a solution with OMVIC’s help, you may want to sue the dealer in court.

In some cases, OMVIC may investigate the dealer and take away (revoke) or suspend the dealer’s licence. If a dealer did something against the law, they might be charged legally.

Get more information about this process on OMVIC’s website.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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Think about going to court

If the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) cannot help you solve your problem, you can sue the registered dealer in Small Claims Court.

If you are asking for $25,000 or less, you can file a claim in Small Claims Court. You must file your claim within 2 years of the date when you first learned about the problem.

  • you bought a used car on December 1, 2013, and
  • learned it had been used previously as a rental car on September 14, 2014

then the last day you could file a claim would be September 14, 2016.

You do not need a lawyer to represent you in small claims court. But, talking to a lawyer can help you understand the court process.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has a self-help guide for Small Claims Court on its website.

If you want to sue for more than $25,000, you have to do this in Superior Court. It's very hard to do this without a lawyer. If you want to sue in Superior Court, you should try to get legal help.

If you have a low income, you might be able to get help from Pro Bono Ontario for cases in Small Claims Court or Superior Court.

There are some reasons why you might not want to sue in court, including:

  • you have to pay court fees
  • if you lose, the court could order you to pay some of the dealer’s legal costs
  • it's complicated and a lot of work for you, especially if you don’t have a lawyer
  • it usually takes a lot of time
  • if you win but the dealer doesn't pay, it's up to you to try to collect the money
Reviewed: 
December, 2016
You May Also Need
Learn more about this topic
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc.

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